Parenting and the Grace of God
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)
Some years ago The Onion, the satirical news site, published an amusing article on parenting. The article was entitled, “Study Finds Every Style of Parenting Produces Disturbed, Miserable Adults.”
A study released by the California Parenting Institute Tuesday shows that every style of parenting inevitably causes children to grow into profoundly unhappy adults.
‘Our research suggests that while overprotective parenting ultimately produces adults unprepared to contend with life's difficulties, highly permissive parenting leads to feelings of bitterness and isolation throughout adulthood,’ […]
‘And, interestingly, we found that anything between those two extremes is equally damaging, always resulting in an adult who suffers from some debilitating combination of unpreparedness and isolation. Despite great variance in parenting styles across populations, the end product is always the same: a profoundly flawed and joyless human being.’
The study did find, however, that adults often achieve temporary happiness when they have children of their own to perpetuate the cycle of human misery. (The Onion)
The article exposes a common anxiety for many modern parents: we are obsessed with techniques, of finding the right parenting style, the method that won’t screw up our kids. How can I find the right balance between discipline and love?
Now it’s certainly true that some technique, some parenting know-how, is useful. As our Proverb notes, discipline for children is essential, whether it is corporal (spanking) or verbal. From the moment they realize that they can walk or talk, most kids test the limits of acceptable behavior. And so parents must have guidelines for daily family life.
As I’ve raised my own children, though, I found that rather than trying to discover the perfect technique, to “balance” love and discipline as if they are competing with each other, it is better to increase both. If kids are acting out, they need more love and more discipline, more compassion and firm boundaries. In other words, it’s less about the perfect cocktail of parenting maneuvers and more about communicating that you are for your child. This is the way to help kids feel deeply secure that they are loved and that their parents believe in their potential for personal growth.
It is this deeper concern – not just the right techniques, but the right goals – that Scripture pushes us to consider. Throughout Proverbs we have seen that God is concerned with wise living not just for earthly success, but for the deeper character formation that it brings. Christian parenting is the call to nurture a young life to reflect God’s own beauty as fully as possible.
So today if you’re a parent – whether biological or spiritual – remember to show both love and discipline, for they work best together. And as you do, work toward God’s highest goal for families, that we would help each other to look like Him.
Father, thank you for the gift of family, in both physical and spiritual senses. By your Spirit, fill me with your love and responsibility today, to love those around me well I can. In Christ’s Name, Amen.